Kelly Kass: “Every day is a New Day”

Two Heads are Better than One — Whether you run your own agency or work for a PR firm — brainstorming with a colleague even if it’s for a few minutes can go a long way. I did this recently and not only did I get new reporter contacts, but I also got great new ideas for my clients […]

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Two Heads are Better than One — Whether you run your own agency or work for a PR firm — brainstorming with a colleague even if it’s for a few minutes can go a long way. I did this recently and not only did I get new reporter contacts, but I also got great new ideas for my clients that I’ll be able to use in the near future.

As part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Kass, President and CEO of Kelly Kass PR.

What started from the joy of placing a client in the Associated Press over 15 years ago, has transformed into a career of storytelling for high profile brands and local companies alike. Kelly Kass is a passionate and trusted Public Relations expert who takes a strategic approach in counseling clients on all facets of media relations including media training, story mining, pitch strategy, and media communication. Kelly works across many industries including consumer, healthcare, and technology.

Kelly was a Vice President at Weber Shandwick and was with the agency for over a decade. She was called on throughout the company as the media specialist who could always navigate the complex media landscape, often because of her exceptional media relationships at top tier media outlets.

Kelly consistently secures national placements for clients including The Today Show, CNN, CNN Money, Forbes, and The New York Times.

Clients include: Nike, Bank of America, Qualcomm, General Motors, Nestle, Burt’s Bees, Ocean Spray, Life is Good, and Harvard Business School.

Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and a minor in Fine Arts from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Kelly enjoys living in San Diego, California after many cold Boston winters.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was a ballet dancer and danced with the Boston Ballet. I planned on going to school to be a physical therapist for dancers. Within the first week, I knew it wasn’t a fit and at the same time, I serendipitously met Professor Russell Barclay, who ran the Public Relations department at my University. He described Public Relations to me, and after taking his first PR 101 class, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. 15 years later, Professor Barclay remains a mentor and Public Relations is not only my career but my passion.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

Recently, I was running point on a client event that featured Mary J. Blige. It was her birthday and she had just received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The night ended up being an intimate gathering of friends, family, and select media. Within a few hours of the event, Mary J. Blige started dancing and her family insisted I join her. There is no amount of cardio hip hop that could have prepared me for that moment. I hope that video never sees the light of day.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I started my business to work with the people and brands I am passionate about and who are making a difference. My clients inspire me every day. Treedom is a great example of this. Treedom is a service-learning platform that empowers students through community engagement and is now supporting non-profits including IsraAid, to manage volunteers in the midst of COVID-19.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

Relationships Are Sacred — I learned very quickly whether it is your boss, colleague, client, or reporter, that relationship has the potential to last your entire career.When my former PR firm was doing the public relations for the David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Tournament, I strategically chose one reporter to cover the event. We ended up building a relationship at the event and 15 years later, we are not only friends but still work together as colleagues.

Take a Breath — We are often doing 15 things at once throughout the day. I always try and remind myself even to this day to take a breath. If we don’t, we risk making mistakes and not making thoughtful decisions. Many times, I’ve looked back over emails and wish I had thought through the response a bit longer. At the time I was under pressure from a reporter or client. At the end of the day, speed is important, but thoughtfulness and strategy are paramount.

Smile — We are doing PR, not ER. Our jobs are very important on many levels, but it’s always important to remember to keep things in perspective and smile once in a while. Your clients and colleagues will appreciate this. My client once told me — we do business with people we like. I’ve never forgotten that as it rings true on both sides.

Two Heads are Better than One — Whether you run your own agency or work for a PR firm — brainstorming with a colleague even if it’s for a few minutes can go a long way. I did this recently and not only did I get new reporter contacts, but I also got great new ideas for my clients that I’ll be able to use in the near future.

Every day is a New Day — PR is ever-changing. Even if you pitched a story for a week with no traction, you have the opportunity for a new angle to resonate and to secure coverage for your client every day. It’s about being strategic and building the strongest relationships possible with media. After over a year of working with a producer at the Today Show, one day I sent her a story idea and within 10 minutes she responded she was interested. She ended up doing a 5-minute segment featuring General Motors. The segment was well-received throughout the entire company. Every day is a new day — just keep persisting.

You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?

Never think of interactions as networking and always be in the mindset of service and connecting people. I genuinely love connecting people and because of that, I believe others do the same for me. I’ve met people having a glass of wine with friends who have organically turned into clients. Think of your personal life and work-life as one. Never try and sell your business, just be yourself, and often people will be intrigued about what you do and will ask. This has sparked a lot of new business.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Be good at your job and referrals will come your way. I’ve been very lucky that all of my new business has been referral based. Not every referral will be a fit — so I always like to schedule an initial call to understand the client’s goals and whether I can support them. If I can’t, I will then refer them to a colleague.

Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?

I listen to “And She Rises” by Amanda Frances — great for manifesting in all areas of your life especially your career, and “The Daily,” by The New York Times, to keep me informed.

Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Believe in yourself. I was a Vice President of Media Relations for Weber Shandwick for 10 years. I knew nothing about running a business but everything about media relations. I took the leap, and 3 years later I’m still learning every day, but it was the best decision I ever made. Whether it’s running your own company, going for a big promotion, or forging a new path, have the confidence to believe in yourself and you will succeed!

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